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Edward Henry Harriman - A Trailblazer of the Railroad Industry

Updated: Mar 25

On February 20, 1848, New York was blessed with the birth of a man who became known as a "Railroad Rehabilitator Extraordinary", named Edward Henry Harriman (E.H. Harriman). Imagine: a guy drops out of school at 14, trades stocks like crazy, and flips failed railroads into gold mines. It's hard to find a more blatant example of "Business Wizardry" than that.

This man had the Midas touch, except instead of gold, it was trained. After seeing a dilapidated 34-mile line, he said, "Oh, I can work with that!" Then he started Sodus Bay & Southern, connecting places like Sodus Point and Stanley and making them the envy of everyone—a fantastic man with a vision who made it a reality. 

Remember the Illinois Central (IC) line? When the Panic of 1893 hit, Harriman calmly led the IC through the chaos like a zen master. Expansion here, extension there, and voila! The whole Midwest… Wisconsin, Lowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota probably owe their connectivity to Harriman’s knack for keeping things on track.

How about rescuing the failing Union Pacific Railroad (UP)? In 1897, at the age of 50, Harriman saved Los Angeles' UP by transforming it into a transcontinental railroad - extending connections from Los Angeles to Ogden, Utah. Millions of dollars were invested in upgrading the railroad's property as part of his commitment to safety and convenience. It didn't only become transcontinental but also the talk of the town, making other railroads look like child's play.

There's more to this man's train playing than you might think. Aside from the Union Pacific, the Southern Pacific and the Central Pacific, he also managed the Chicago & Alton and Erie Railroad. But after rescuing railroads, he went to Alaska, cataloguing flora and fauna. Why not? Who knew railroad moguls had a thing for botany?

But wait, there’s more! There was more to him than just choo-choo trains and plants. As a side hustle, he built parks and bridges. Palisades Interstate Park? Yeah, that was Harriman’s brainchild. And the Bear Mountain Bridge? His idea! Talk about a man of many talents. Both bridges not only provided a convenient route for motorists but also served as iconic landmarks that enhanced the natural beauty of the area. What an inspiring example of visionary leadership and the power of public-private partnerships.

And then, as if he hadn’t done enough, he left behind a legacy that included steamship companies and express services. It's like he ran out of railroads to fix, so he decided to conquer the seas and express delivery, too. What a legend!

They named a dispatching center after him, you know. That's right, the Harriman Dispatching Center in Omaha, Nebraska. His name's practically synonymous with "railroad greatness" at this point.

So, here's to E.H. Harriman, the man who saw a broken railroad and thought, "Challenge accepted." He turned rusted tracks into golden pathways and left a legacy no high-speed train could catch up with. Cheers to the man who proved that with determination and a knack for reinventing things, you can turn a train wreck into a triumph.

At Joyce Insurance Agency we can insure your planes, trains, and autos.  



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